Locals can't wait to take a swing


They all came together last night, the Greek attorney, the Iris author, the Jewish businessman. Three self-made men poised for the deal of a lifetime. Three Baltimore natives plotting to buy the hometown team.

They met in Suite 19 at Camden Yards, the luxury box run by the Maryland Stadium Authority. Peter Angelos wore a blue business suit, Tom Clancy a blue naval cap, Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass a blue denim jacket.

Three of a kind.

Contractor Henry Knott Sr., moviemaker Barry Levinson and other local investors also are behind this effort, and Orioles president Larry Lucchino probably would be involved as well. But for now, Angelos, Clancy and Weinglass are at the center. And for that, we have Eli Jacobs to thank.

Remember when Eli wouldn't take Boogie's phone calls?

Now the Orioles owner is in bankruptcy.

This baby is out of his hands.

The future of the club rests with a bankruptcy court judge in New York. It's going to be a free-for-all, and the locals can't wait to start swinging.

There was Weinglass last night, a twinkle in his eye, saying, "I think it's going to happen. I see us getting the team."

And there was Clancy, staring straight ahead from behind sunglasses, saying, "If my information is correct, we're in much better financial shape than the people from Cincinnati."

The "people from Cincinnati" are led by Bill DeWitt. They'll get the first crack at the team when Jacobs presents their offer to the court, perhaps by the end of the week.

After that, the fun begins.

"I don't have to deal with him," Weinglass said of Jacobs last night, barely containing his glee. "I always wanted the baseball team. But the figures he was asking were so astronomical -- $175 million, $200 million. It was impossible."

Not anymore. The judge will decide everything, and he'll be acting in the interests of Jacobs' creditors, not the man himself. Once the judge receives DeWitt's offer, he'll schedule a hearing in open court. Anyone objecting to the offer could step forward with a competing bid.

Can't you just see Angelos, Clancy and Weinglass rising in unison, clearing their throats as one? DeWitt is said to be offering $140 million. "I can't tell you what the bankruptcy court judge is going to say," Weinglass said, "but I'm telling you, we're going up there awfully strong."

The NFL expansion effort, you ask?

No problem.

Clancy is out, but Weinglass -- and now Angelos -- are in. Weinglass and Angelos figured it all out the other night over a three-hour dinner at Sabatino's. It wouldn't have taken that long, but friends of both kept stopping by their table to say hello.

Here's how it works: Weinglass would be a minority owner of the Orioles, but he'd divest his interest if necessary to secure an NFL team. Weinglass believes he might be able to keep interest in both, but the NFL likely would frown on such a move.

Angelos, meanwhile, is now a minority partner in Weinglass' NFL ownership group, apparently with the league's blessing. These people make up the rules as they go along. Wayne Huizenga owns all or part of the baseball, football and expansion hockey teams in South Florida.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

DeWitt still has the upper hand -- he has been working toward this moment for six months, and presumably is ready to close a deal. What's more, he's the son of a former major-league owner )) and a minority partner in the Texas Rangers. His approval would be virtually automatic.

Still, the bidding will be wide-open. New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria already has stated his interest. So have the four brothers who run Nobody Beats The Wiz, a chain of recording, music and electronics stores on the East Coast.

DeWitt could have prevented all this by reaching agreement witJacobs before the owner entered bankruptcy. But Jacobs' creditors were never satisfied with his offer. Now, with the whole thing in court, the locals can finally step up to the plate.

"I can't stand the fact that an outsider is coming into town to buy the team," Weinglass said. "I want football, but what if football doesn't come? Then, I'm left out. This way, I can be part of the team."

They all can. No one is certain who would do what, although Weinglass indicated that he would want Lucchino to stay aboard, and Clancy said he was willing to accept a role outside of the baseball operation.

"I wasn't that good in Loch Raven Little League," Clancy said.

Beautiful, isn't it?

All because of Eli.

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